How to start an internet radio station

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Start an Online Radio Broadcast

Did you know? Creating a live audio stream is well within the ability of most PC users!

Here is some free advice, direct from our in house radio experts which will take you through the basic steps of starting a successful internet radio station. This article is split up into 4 sections, these include:

  1. Getting Started (How it works)

    A basic overview explaining how you can broadcast live radio very easily, just using the power of your desktop computer and the internet.

  2. Setting Up A Website

    Creating websites is fun - here are a few tips and tools to get you started.

  3. Marketing Your Station

    Once you have a radio station online, how do you attract listeners?

  4. Legal Issues

    What legal issues may you face when diving into the world of internet radio?

How Internet Radio Works

You can quite easily broadcast live audio on the internet and it can consist of recorded items (Eg. Your MP3/CD collection) plus live content (Eg. Your voice via a microphone). There are 3 basic stages of internet broadcasting, as follows:

I: The Source (You)
Your computer mixes together the audio sources coming from your soundcard (which can be Mp3's being played, live voice or other inputs from CD players etc). It then makes them into a 'stream' of data which is sent 'on the fly' to...

II: The Server (Us)
Your Shoutcast server with Wavestreaming will receive the audio stream coming from your PC and then redistribute it to ...

III: The Listener (Everyone Else)
Anyone in the world with an internet connection can then connect to your server. They will be able to hear everything which is going on at your end - so anything you output to the stream server, they can hear!

Live Source (You) — Shoutcast Server — Your Listeners

What does 'Bitrate' mean?

Radio streams are encoded (compressed) to a 'bitrate'. The bitrate simply refers to the audio quality of the stream, this is measured in computer terms in 'kbps - kilo bits per second' or 'k' for short. As a rough guide; listening to a station in 128k stereo would sound like CD quality, where as 24k would sound more like listening over the phone. It is also important to note that users with a dial-up internet connection will not be able to connect to anything higher than 24k.

Most radio stations like to offer 2 or 3 streams, usually a low bitrate (like 24k) for users with dial-up, a medium stream (such as 64k) for users with ISDN/Lower powered broadband and a high quality 96/128k stream for the majority of internet users who will have high power broadband connections either at home or work.

You can sample the different audio quality's on our demo stream:
Low (24k) | Medium (64k) | High (128k)

We recommend using Shoutcast for more beginners. It is simply a system used to broadcast via the internet, it is entirely free to download and install. There are 2 components to it:

The DSP Plugin (Encoder) - This is a plugin for Winamp and can be downloaded for free here (You must have first installed Winamp)

The Server - This is what we host for you, we will give you some connection details and you simply need to paste them into the SHOUTcast DSP plugin, set your station name and encoder and away you go!

Setting Up An Internet Radio Website

Presenting a way for your prospective listeners to hear your radio station is very important. A good website should be well designed and eye catching in order to draw attention to your station, make it stand out from the rest. Most stations do not just offer the ability to listen to a live stream, but also provide a whole wealth of other related content and features.

Here are the Top 5 web pages, we think you should include on your radio station website, along with the home page:

1. Listen page
This should by far be the most important webpage of the site. We recommend offering a variety of methods for listeners to tune in (eg. Embedded Player, Listen with Winamp/iTunes/XMMS, Windows Media and Realplayer). Not everyone is using a Windows computer with Winamp installed - so Windows Media, Mac and Linux users have to be taken into consideration. Wavestreaming provides a full set of tools to do this in our control panel, free of charge for all SHOUTcast server customers.

2. Contact Us or Request page
Your radio stations most valuable asset will be the listeners' feedback. If they like what they hear and have the ability to have a say on the output of your station, it will keep them coming back time and time again. You should include a contact form which enables visitors to quickly and easily fire requests to the DJ who is on air, or the stations music programmer.

3. Playlist Page
Its a good idea to showcase either new music or your most played songs on a playlist page, just to give the user an idea of what you play. If they like what they see on the playlist, they are more likely to listen. You can also include a 'featured artist' on your homepage which when clicked, leads to the playlist page.

4. DJ or Show Page (and schedule)
Create a web page which shows your DJ's and the shows they present and at which times they are on. This way, listeners who hear a certain show will be able to come back when the show is next on and tune in.

5. Links Page
A links page is vital if you want to exchange links with partners. More will be mentioned in the next section about link exchanges.

Radio Station Marketing

Getting listeners is one of the hardest parts of running an internet radio station, if you head onto shoutcast.com and look on the directory listing, you will find many highly successful radio stations with thousands of listeners. You will also come across a huge number of not-so-successful ones, with >10 listeners.

There is NOTHING wrong with running a station and broadcasting to only a few people, don't expect to gain hundreds of listeners within a week of starting as unless you have a lot of money for advertising, its not likely to happen. Most of us start off by broadcasting to a few friends.

We have put together a complete A to Z of marketing methods you can use, all of which when executed properly; we have found to provide our clients with the internet radio success they want...

A to Z of Marketing Methods

  • Advertise, Advertise, Advertise everywhere you can!
  • Banner Advertisements (On the internet)
  • Chatrooms all around the internet, there are lots of live and busy chatrooms - potential listeners!
  • Demonstrate your station in public places. See if you can get a road-show on the go and offer PA services at local events.
  • Email, send lots of emails to people! This does not mean spam however.
  • Forums, become active on discussion boards where you are going to attract listeners, maybe buy some advertising on busy ones?
  • Google, either with paid adwords or just via the standard search. If you are running a Niche station, make sure you come up near the top!
  • Handouts. Print some, see if local shops will hold them for you. Or give them out at a busy event.
  • Interaction, create a two-way communication channel between you and your listeners
  • Joint Venture, sometimes taking on a project all by yourself can limit you - team up with someone else and work together
  • Kill the competition (Not literally of course), use strategic methods to reduce their audience and convert them to your own station.
  • Swap Links with other stations, with any websites in general. Think of your target audience, who wants to listen to the radio? everybody does...
  • Mail, if you can get hold of a mailing list - might be worth sending out some flyers or other promo material in the post.
  • Newspapers and Newsletters, give a someone an interesting story to write about. After all, its not every day you hear about someone running a radio station from home!
  • Offers, team up with some companies to bring your listeners some exclusive offers - you will then be helping each other out!
  • PR is one of the most powerful advertising tools.
  • Quality, a high quality broadband stream will cost more, however people enjoy good quality audio.
  • Radio, Utilize your own radio station to advertise itself using sweepers and promotional adverts.
  • Signs, Make some signs or posters to put around the place.
  • Text messaging or Television
  • Upgrade and Update your service on a regular basis to keep things fresh, and keep people coming back.
  • Visually appealing branding, can be used to catch peoples attention. It might be worth spending some time creating a nice uniform design to use on your website and on any promotional material you create.
  • Word of mouth, one of the BEST forms of marketing available to you - get your friends to tell their friends who will in turn tell their friends...
  • We can't think of anything beginning with X? ...Well, can you?
  • Yellowpages, or the phone book?
  • Advertise at a Zoo! (We couldn't think of a Z either).

Internet Radio Licensing

DISCLAIMER, by reading this section you are agreeing to the following :

We are only offering this article as general advice. We are not in any way qualified to offer Legal advice, we are not solicitors/lawyers and any actions you may take after having read this article are your own responsibility. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the topics outlined below, you must seek professional legal advice, please do not contact us with questions as it is not within our position to answer them.

For more information on our rules regarding stream content when using our services, please see our terms and conditions

--
If you are broadcasting over the internet without any form of licensing, it is not illegal. Unlike standard radio (going via FM/AM or DAB) you do not need a 'license' to broadcast, to own that wavelength on an AM/FM band so to speak. That is the beauty of the internet, no one 'owns' it and therefore it is yours to use how you like, there is no limit to the number of streams you can run.

However, if the content of your stream includes any copyrighted material - you are at risk and may be breaking the law if you do not hold the permission of the copyright holder - which for most commercial music is the record label or the artist themselves.

Music licensing is available for individuals and organizations looking to stream copyrighted material online legally. A single fee is usually paid to the licensing body, which in turn is then fairly distributed to the copyright holders.

The following links to music licensing bodies may be of help:

USA: 3rd Party 'umbrella' Licenses for web broadcasting:

www.loudcity.net
www.swcast.com
www.bmi.com
www.ascap.com
www.soundexchange.com

UK:
www.ppluk.com
PPL - the UK broadcast royalties collection society
www.mcps-prs-alliance.co.uk
The MCPS-PRS Alliance

Germany:
www.gema.de
www.gvl.de

France:
www.sacem.fr

Netherlands:
www.bumastemra.nl


Last Updated: September 2011
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding this article, please contact us

This article is © Copyright 2009 - Igniso Limited.
Reproduction of this article in ANY form is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN without prior permission from ourselves.


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